Hostels are the best way to save money on your travels. Not only are they cheap, they are also a lot of fun and a great way to meet other travelers. For all their glory, everyone seems to have a hostel horror story. Here are some hacks to make hostel life as comfortable and safe as possible.
Invest in a padlock
Many hostels have lockers you can store your valuables in while you are out or sleeping but they NEVER provide locks. If your hostel doesn’t have lockers, zip up your suitcase or pack and lock the zippers together. That obviously won’t keep out any thief with a pocketknife but will make the casual hostel pickpocket pick someone else’s stuff to pilfer.
Bring a quick dry towel
Most hostels don’t provide complimentary towels and some have them available for a modest rental price. Save yourself a couple bucks each place by bringing a camping towel or a quick dry towel. They are lightweight so it won’t take up valuable packing space and, if you are traveling in the tropics, a normal towel will never fully dry.
Grab a bottom bunk
As long as I live, I will never understand people who say they prefer top bunk. Never...
Some hostels are first come first serve when it comes to beds, but some will give you a bottom bunk if you ask nicely at check-in or, better yet, on your online booking form in the "special requests" section.
Pro tip: ask nicely for a bottom bunk in the
"special requests" section of your online booking form.
Save space with Dr. Bronner's
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap is an all-in-one, organic soap you can use for pretty much anything: shampoo, body wash, hand wash, detergent, some even use it as toothpaste! Save one space and just bring one soap instead of four!
Bring a sleeping bag liner
I don’t personally travel with this but, then again, I’ve never gotten bed bugs. If you are staying at a bottom of the barrel place or are just a germaphobe, definitely bring a sleeping bag liner to jump into before bed.
Pack a headlamp
Some hostel goers will flip on the lights no matter the hour (see eye shades) –don’t be that person. If you come back late and need to look through your things or want to read before bed, use a headlamp. It’s much easier than trying to hold a flashlight and pack at the same time.
Remember a deck of cards
Hostels are basically like the first year of college. Everyone wants to make friends. And just like college, this is much easier with some social lubricant. Alcohol is usually the go-to solution but a game will work too. If you are traveling alone and really struggling to meet people, you can always play solitaire!
Throw in an easy-to-use keyring
Very few hostels are state-of-the-art enough to use key cards for rooms. Most of them use good old-fashioned keys. Bring a keychain for your room key and padlock key and put a bottle opener keychain on it for good measure. Don't just add them to your keys from home because if you loose them that mistake will just come back to bite you in the butt when you get home from your travels.
Pro tip: opt for key carabiners or ball chains to save your fingernails!
Wear flip flops in the showers
Even the cleanest hostels can harbor nasty bacteria in their showers. Wear foot protection, like flip flops, every single time you use a hostel shower.
Don't forget eyeshades and earplugs
If you are a light sleeper, these items are a must. When you are sharing a room with four, six, even ten people, someone is bound to get on your nerves or come home drunk at 4am. Shut them out and create your happy place!
Do the events
It may seem like a cheap cruise at first but if your hostel offers events (the good ones all do) such as yoga, dance classes, or even a walking tour, do it! It’s another great way to meet people and the events are usually free. Never say "no" to free!
Living out of a suitcase can be a nightmare. There are pretty much never dressers or closets in hostels so you'll find yourself digging around in your bag a lot. Some travelers swear by packing cubes to stay orderly. I'm a chronic overpacker (don't be like me) and usually need all the space I can get so I prefer roll-up space bags. They are like vacuum seal bags but you just roll them up to let the air out of the one-way valve and they squish down to nothing!
Pro tip: a few days into you trip, designate one of your bags to become your dirty clothes bag. Seal that baby off to keep the rest of your clothes smelling fresh until laundry day.
Make friends...with the bartender
A much wiser traveler once gave me this tip: when all else fails, befriend the bartender. If you have the mullah, a bartender is basically a paid friend. They are typically travelers themselves but always have great tips for things to do around town. If they like you a lot, your investment may return free tequila shots!
Picked up any hostel hacks on your travels?
Share them in the comments below!
Go confidently travelers!
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